Pujols at center of Cards' tough loss

Pujols at center of Cards' tough loss

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols once again re-wrote his name alongside -- no, among -- baseball's absolute immortals on Thursday night. Then he showed that even a baseball immortal is human.

On the same night when he reached 100 RBIs for the eighth time in as many seasons, Pujols committed a costly error and popped up to end the game as the Cardinals lost to the Cubs, 3-2, at Busch Stadium. The loss certainly can't be hung on Pujols' neck. But a team that has gotten used to otherworldly performances from its superstar needed another one on Thursday, and it didn't get it.

For the second straight night, it was a string of potentially minor miscues that sunk the Redbirds -- an error, a walk, oversliding a base. But with 16 games remaining on the schedule and a 4 1/2-game deficit to the Wild Card-leading Brewers, the Cardinals absolutely must dot every I and cross every T. And their best players must play at their best.

"We just didn't catch any breaks, and that's the way it goes," Pujols said.

Todd Wellemeyer turned in five effective innings on a miserably muggy night, but Pujols' error set up the two-run inning that doomed him to defeat.

With a man on first base and no outs, Pujols couldn't make the play on a grounder to him. The ball could have been a double play and should at least have gone for an out on the lead runner at second. Instead, a wild pitch, two walks and an RBI groundout led to a 2-0 Cubs lead.

"That's a play that I make," Pujols said. "I probably make it 100 times if you hit that ball. Sometimes you try to throw the ball before you catch it, and obviously that's probably what happened. What can you do? That's it. I'm human, and I'm not going to have a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage for my career. You're going to make some errors."

With the two unearned runs and 91 pitches through five innings, Wellemeyer was done, handing the ball over to a Cardinals bullpen that had an excellent series. But Chicago added a third tally with back-to-back doubles against rookie reliever Kyle McClellan in the sixth before the St. Louis relief corps quieted the Cubs over the remainder of the game.


"I'm human, and I'm not going to have a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage for my career. You're going to make some errors."
-- Albert Pujols

"I was leaning off," said Wellemeyer. "I probably threw too many pitches, got a little tired and started leaning to the left and pulling everything. I still got through it, but it was too much."

Facing a 3-0 deficit in the sixth, Pujols came through. He doubled to left field for RBI No. 100, making him the third player in Major League history to begin a career with eight straight seasons of 100 ribbies. Felipe Lopez singled him home, but that was as close as the Cards got.

Not that they didn't have a chance.

Brendan Ryan led off the ninth with a double, but he was thrown out on a Cesar Izturis sacrifice attempt when he overslid third base. Ryan slid around Aramis Ramirez's tag initially, but Ramirez tagged him before he could get back to the base. Skip Schumaker's single would have scored Ryan, but instead it simply gave the Cards runners on the corners with one out.

"Obviously the ball beat me [to the base], so I had to get creative," Ryan said. "I just wish I could have gotten back to the bag somehow. ... I just had too much momentum and I couldn't hold onto the corner. "

Aaron Miles struck out for the second out, bringing up Pujols with the chance to win the game. Wood fell behind, 2-0, before getting a close call to go to 2-1. Pujols fouled off the next pitch, then popped up to second base to end the game.

Manager Tony La Russa took issue with the called strike, but Pujols said he had no gripe.

"I got a pretty good pitch to hit, and I wanted to hit in that situation," Pujols said. "He made a good pitch and I popped it up. I want to hit in that situation, so I don't blame the umpire. I got a pretty good pitch to hit and I didn't come through. You can't come through every time."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.